Georgetown business owners file first sinkhole lawsuit

Georgetown business owners file first sinkhole lawsuit

Source: Georgetown Times (SC), January 18, 2013
By: Scott Harper

Scott Harper/Times File Photo
The UPS Store on Fraser Street in Georgetown was destroyed by a sinkhole in November 2011. Tony and Debbie Jordan owned the Parrish Place building housing that business and several others. On Tuesday, they filed a lawsuit seeking damages.

The first lawsuit has been filed in connection with the sinkholes that formed in the City of Georgetown in late 2011 damaging several buildings and homes.

Tony and Debbie Jordan filed the suit in the 15th Circuit Court Tuesday naming Davis & Floyd Engineering, Republic Contracting, S&ME Inc. and the South Carolina Department of Transportation as defendants.

The Jordans owned Parrish Place on North Fraser Street which housed several businesses including the UPS Store, which Debbie Jordan owned and managed.

That building was destroyed when a sinkhole formed underneath the structure in November 2011.

They also own the buildings in the Highmarket Business Center in the same block. One of those buildings housed Tony Jordan Allstate Insurance. That building is still classified as being unsafe to occupy because of the sinkhole damage

The suit is not asking for a specified amount to be awarded but is asking a jury to allow them to recover the “actual, consequential and incidental damages” they have suffered as a result of the sinkholes.

The suit states the damages incurred by the Jordans exceeds $2 million.

The suit says the buildings owned by the Jordans began to be damaged on Oct. 29, 2011 and the damage increased in the weeks that followed “as a result of dewatering activities that altered the water tables and caused land subsidence.”

The dewatering that was taking place was part of the drainage project that the Department of Transportation is still working on in the general area the sinkholes formed. At one point water was being removed from the ground at a rate of 60,000 gallons per hour.

The suit says the Highmarket Street buildings do not show obvious signs of damage but they have incurred diminished value.

The Jordans, in the suit, say there is no evidence that any hydrogeological testing or studies were conducted in the areas where the dewatering was taking place.

When sheeting and king pilings were driven into the ground, they were not driven deep enough to reach an impervious geological layer, which needed to happen to prevent the sinkholes, according to the suit.

“The sheeting and king piling were inadequate to isolate the underground aquifer, thus allowing for water to be drawn from outside the intended isolation area,” the suit states.

The suit also alleges no one set up an adequate system to monitor the rate, flow and quality of the water being removed during the dewatering.

After the process began, the defendants received notice water was being removed from outside the intended isolation area, the suit states. On Oct. 29, 2011, they were told depressions had started to form outside the intended isolation area but they allowed the dewatering to continue for nearly another month.

The Jordans say Davis & Floyd, the engineering firm, “had a duty to exercise reasonable care” so that property “would not be the subject of damage due to subsidence of the land.”

The suit also accuses the defendants of trespass because water was pumped from underneath the Jordan’s property without permission.

Since the suit was filed just this week, the defendants have not yet issued a reply.

The Georgetown Times has been told additional lawsuits will be filed in upcoming weeks.

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